'We need to speak honestly about incompetent state officials' - Prof Adam Habib

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Adam Habib.
Adam Habib.
Denzil Maregele, Gallo Images, Beeld
  • Professor Adam Habib was a panelist during a discussion at the second annual social justice summit.
  • This year's summit was aimed at launching a crowdfunding initiative in aid of equality and poverty.
  • He said universities had a fundamental role to play in vaccine research and clinical trials in SA and the developing world. 



Outgoing Wits University vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib says it is necessary to speak honestly about "incompetent state officials" in order to create inclusive socio-economic policies.

"Universities are fundamental in researching the kind of inclusive policies that are required to enable growth and inclusion, but we can only do this if we speak honestly.

"You can have the best economic policies in the world, but if you don't have the courage to speak honestly about incompetent state officials, the fact that we made bad appointments in the state and that the capacity of our state is very weak to implement any policies, then we are not going to succeed," said Habib. 

He was speaking during a virtual panel discussion on the role universities are playing in integrating the post-Covid-19 recovery programme with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The panel was part of the second annual social justice summit, hosted by the University of Stellenbosch and former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

SDGs are 17 goals set out by the United Nations in 2016 as a call to address poverty and other social ills by 2030.

Habib said universities had a fundamental role to play in vaccine research and clinical trials in South Africa and the developing world. 

"You would have seen in Covid-19 this huge challenge that has emerged around vaccine nationalism. The Americans and the British and the Chinese have bought out the world's supplies and the big question is: if they buy up the world's supplies, then will we get the vaccine?

"Even if we find one, one year or 18 months too late, and in that context poor people in the developing world are likely going to die," he said. 

Habib was part of a panel that included vice-chancellors and rectors from various universities in the country. 

Professor Francis Petersen, the vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, said a key SDG, especially during Covid-19, is gender. 

"Gender inequality in the context of Covid-19 is very crucial. We have seen an increase in gender-based violence and our institution for African and Gender Studies is doing a lot of work in trying to enhance our understanding of the issue of gender-based violence," said Petersen.

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